The Weather Channel announced this week that it will be naming Winter Storms this season, much like the National Hurricane Center names tropical systems. The move is a PR tactic that the Weather Channel hopes will raise awareness about dangerous winter weather conditions.
According to weather.com, tropical systems have been named since the 1940s. Winter storms have also been named in Europe since the 1950s. So why the change this year? The Weather Channel lists five reasons:
- Naming a storm raises awareness.
- Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress.
- A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.
- In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication.
- A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.
Some people in the meteorological world aren’t sold on the new storm naming and feel that the Weather Channel is using the tactic not to raise awareness, but as a self serving way to build ratings. Accuweather.com has been one of the main organizations critical of the Weather Channel’s announcement. In a statement released shortly after TWC’s announcement, Accuweather.com condemned TWC saying the move “has confused media spin with science and public safety.”
In fact, The Weather Channel is naming the storms unilaterally. As of now, the National Weather Service and other national meteorological organizations won’t be involved in the winter storm naming process. The Weather Channel hasn’t exactly given details on how or when a storm will be named or if storms will be categorized on a 1-5 scale like hurricanes.
It remains to be seen whether this maneuver is a gimmick to grow ratings or a legitimate PR tactic that will grow awareness and improve communication when dangerous weather conditions happen this winter. One thing is for sure; for TWC to gain credibility on the issue, they need to get the backing of the National Weather Service to legitimize the project. This winter may just be a test run to see if the move is groundbreaking or a PR move gone wrong. For TWC sake, they better hope there are more winter storms this year than there were last.